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Catalyst Guidelines: S2Ms win, independence loses

Deborah Stone

Guidelines have been release for Catalyst, as the Government backs away from the NPEA. They are a win for small-to-mediums but not for individual artists or independent peer review.
Catalyst Guidelines: S2Ms win, independence loses


The Federal Government's new arts funding program has released guidelines that go some way to meeting industry concerns over the National Program for Excellence in the arts, which was abolished at midnight after months of industry campaigning.

Understand the timeline and how it happened -  Read:​ How protest killed the NPEA


The guidelines acknowledge the need to fund community arts as well as majors and that access is important as well as excellence.

They enable small to medium organisations to have a fighting chance at maintaining funding.

But individual artists still can't apply for funding and sorely needed operational funding is still excluded.

Catalyst funding will be available from three streams: partnerships and collaborations; innovation and participation; and international and cultural diplomacy.

The new Catalyst fund is open to small, medium and large arts organisations at a national, regional and community level. It will support projects that demonstrate innovation, increase access and participation in the regions and enhance our international reputation. Funding can also be used to help attract further private sector support to arts projects including infrastructure.

Applications will be assessed with the assistance of independent assessors. More than 300 assessors are registered with the Ministry for the Arts including artists, curators, philanthropists and audience members.

What this means is that Catalyst is an improvement on the NPEA in terms of who can apply and the breadth of funding it will offer and is better for small-to-mediums​. But it still excludes individual artists and does not meet the concerns that the Government has taken money away from an independent, peer-reviewed Australia Council system in order to control it from within the Ministry for the Arts - the issue that has always been at the heart of the objections to the NPEA.

Catalyst will fund high quality projects irrespective of scale in all art forms, including screen-based art work and cross art form projects, including but not limited to:

Catalyst will fund high quality projects irrespective of scale in all art forms, including screen-based art work and cross art form projects, including but not limited to:

  • Performances
  • Exhibitions
  • Tours
  • Development and/or creation of new work
  • Festivals
  • Investment in foundation fellowship programs (Partnerships and Collaborations stream only)
  • Capacity building
  • Infrastructure projects (Partnerships and Collaborations stream only)
  • Artistic cultural exchanges

 Catalyst will not fund:

  • Individuals
  • Competitions
  • Awards
  • Business start-up costs
  • Private tuition, training or study
  • Work used for academic assessment
  • Eisteddfods
  • Film and television production
  • Operational funding for organisations (note this differs from administrative costs associated with undertaking funded projects)
  • Interactive games
  • Built or natural heritage projects
  • Components of projects that are also funded by other programs administered by the Ministry for the Arts, the Australia Council or Creative Partnerships Australia
  • Costs associated with a project that have already been incurred

Criteria for funding have broadened: the word 'excellence' is strikingly absent and the value of community arts has been acknowledged with a new criterion of 'access'. Funding will now be based on four criteria: quality and innovation, access, support and partnerships and value for money.

​Full guidelines are available from the Ministry for the Arts, along with a list of FAQs.

Catalyst will open for applications on Friday 27 November 2015. ​

About the author

Deborah Stone is Editor of ArtsHub.